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2012: On the road to a new Acute Care Centre for BC children, women and families

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Luca Piccolo’s parents don’t need a crystal ball to see into the future; they know their son will need to visit BC Children’s Hospital again and again. The 11-year-old combats his cystic fibrosis with a strict daily regimen that includes two physiotherapy sessions and swallowing up to 40 pills.

Luca, a Burnaby, B.C. resident and keen soccer player, looks healthy, but like a growing number of children living with chronic conditions, he will require specialized care for life. His parents know Luca and patients like him will benefit from the new Acute Care Center (ACC) – incorporating programs from the co-located BC Children’s and BC Women’s hospitals in Vancouver – slated for completion by late 2017.

“Kids like Luca are a relatively new phenomenon in pediatric care,” says his mother, Lisa. “He has frequent routine appointments at the hospital and though he always receives excellent care, the need for a new facility is particularly evident to us when he has to stay overnight.”

Dave Ingram, chief project officer leading the planning of the new ACC, looks to patients like Luca as he works with his team through the lengthy and complex planning process of creating a new hospital.

“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Ingram, who has helped shepherd other major Lower Mainland health care building projects. “We’re absolutely determined to build a superb facility that is flexible, adaptable and meets our patients’ immediate needs and those of generations to come.”

The three-phase, multi-year BC Children’s and BC Women’s Redevelopment Project is an initiative of the Provincial Health Services Authority, the only one of six BC health authorities with a provincial mandate. The centre piece is construction of the ACC and renovation of existing facilities to ensure that the two provincial tertiary hospitals continue to meet increasing demands for care. Still in Phase 1, the Project nevertheless saw many important developments during 2012.

“For the team, this year was incredibly busy,” says Ingram. “One of the highlights was moving from a mostly paper-based process to a three-dimensional planning exercise that involved mocking up full-scale cardboard-wall models of entire floors of the new ACC in a massive 140,000 square foot warehouse. During eight ,week-long  ‘integrated facility design’(IFD) events between January to August, parents and patients worked alongside caregivers, architects and administrators to test floor plans and the ‘flows’ of people, medicine and services.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time ‘IFD’ has been done on this scale in a Canadian health care environment. It allows people to interact with the design in a much more meaningful way and brings architectural drawings to life – it makes the experience of a hospital real.”

Ingram adds that IFD incorporates Lean techniques into health care planning. Lean is all about being efficient and minimizing waste, “but at its heart it’s really about finding the best ways to bring people together to find the best solutions through collaboration, innovation and a keen awareness of the resources available.”

Ingram is quick to credit the hospitals’ clinical and administrative leaders and staff, as well as family and volunteer representatives, for being disciplined and dedicated to this approach. “The entire team – from specialist pediatric surgeons to parents and friends of the hospitals — never lost sight of the focus on patient care. And by focusing on care, we are creating a facility that also best meets the needs of families and caregivers.”

Moving from two to three dimensions – and collecting, interpreting and making sense of the enormous amount of data gathered in that process – contributed to another major highlight of 2012: the detailed and comprehensive job of compiling material for, and finalizing the documents supporting, Phase 2 of the Project that is highlighted by the building of the ACC.

“In many respects, this is what it all comes down to,” says Ingram, of the four inch-thick binder of details upon details. That document lays out how the ACC will function to assist the future architectural design team in developing cost-effective and functionally-viable development strategies and outlines an indicative design that helps ensure all departmental and related patient care and services can fit logically and efficiently together on a floor plate.

“We needed to get that right — to demonstrate to the funders of this investment of up to $700 million on behalf of British Columbians that we have a firm understanding of how this will meet patient needs for decades to come.  And, we needed to show how this can be done within available funding and without compromising the human factors, like an abundance of natural light and single patient rooms that create a warm, healing environment.”

As Ingram emphasizes, a caring environment isn’t just about documents or new technologies or even the ‘bricks and mortar’ of a shiny new building. It’s the people – the caregivers, the support staff, the volunteers – who make a hospital a place of healing. “Staff at both BC Children’s and BC Women’s have a reputation for their strong commitments to patients and patient care and that will not change with a new building.

“During 2012, everyone from the Ministry of Health to PHSA to hospital leaders, staff and volunteers to the Project team worked with one vision in mind – to create the best possible pediatric and women’s hospitals,” he adds. “I think we’re completely ready to speak to all aspects of this project and that we have every reason to anticipate Phase 2 will receive the go-ahead by the end of 2012.

“Of course, that means if we thought this year was busy, then we’d better hang on tight for 2013!”


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